Workers who have benefitted from a Norwich-wide campaign to increase the wages of the city’s lowest-paid employees have told of the positive impact it has had on their lives.
It comes as the people behind the bid urged more firms to sign-up, and existing ones to stay the course, and help improve the lives of those being hit hardest by the cost-of-living crisis.
The ‘Making Norwich A Real Living Wage City’ campaign is celebrating its first anniversary, where to date some 79 employers have signed up to become a Real Living Wage accredited employer, covering more than 6,000 members of staff.
1,775 people in the city have so far benefited from a pay rise directly from being signed up to the scheme.
Key figures from the coalition behind the campaign have today praised the scheme for making a real-difference to those struggling the most to make ends meet – but also urged the city’s hundreds of other employers to ‘do the right thing’ and sign up.
Councillor Alan Waters, chair of the Norwich Living Wage Action Group and former Norwich City Council leader, said: “We are delighted with how the first year of the campaign has gone, however we know there are many more businesses that could sign up, do the right thing and make a real difference for their employees.
“Living costs continue to rise sharply and many families are struggling in Norwich, so action is sorely needed. Chronic low pay and the current cost of living crisis has meant the lowest paid in our communities are experiencing in-work poverty and very real hardship.
“The Norwich Real Living Wage City Action Group will continue to make the case to businesses in the city to pay the Real Living Wage and ensure everyone is paid a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.”
The Norwich Real Living Wage City Action Group is made up of some of the city’s major businesses and institutions, all of whom are Living Wage Employers, including: Norwich City Council, Aviva, Flagship Group, Future Projects, and Broadland Housing Association.
Their collective ambition is to substantially increase Real Living Wage jobs in the city, and ultimately make Norwich a Real Living Wage City.
Michael Newey, chief executive of Broadland Housing Association said: “Broadland recognises that it is a people business – people providing services to people. Paying the real living wage for us is core to our organisational values – recognising the contribution that our team members make and paying them fairly.
“You can’t expect people to do their best at work if you don’t pay them appropriately and those on the lowest pay grades shouldn’t be dependent on welfare benefits to make ends meet.”
Karen Paterson, Aviva spokesperson, said: “Having been involved with the Living Wage campaign since it started in 2005, Aviva is delighted to be part of the action group that worked towards Norwich being accredited as a Living Wage City. Paying the Living Wage to all our employees and contractors is absolutely the right thing to do and we believe that this is something all employers should offer. Earning a living wage changes people’s lives and is a simple way that employers can play their part to help people through the current cost of living increases.
Becoming accredited as a Living Wage City is fantastic for Norwich but there is still a lot of work to do. Aviva will continue to support and promote the campaign.”
David Powles, chief executive of Norfolk Community Law Service, said: “A real living wage matters so much, with so many people still struggling to keep their heads above water. We continue to see clients every day at NCLS who are the working poor – impacted by low pay, zero hours and uncertain employment contracts, benefit cuts and unaffordable rents.
“Providing a real living wage is a big step in the right direction towards making sure many more people are helped out of poverty.”
The real Living Wage is an hourly rate of pay calculated by the Living Wage Foundation based on what people need to live on to pay for costs including fuel, energy, rent and food.
Employers must be prepared to pay staff a minimum £10.90 an hour, which is 14pc higher than the current minimum wage for anyone over the age of 23.
It is paid voluntarily by employers, going beyond the national minimum wage rates set by Government – currently £9.50/hr for anyone over the age of 23.
Norwich is home to many traditionally low-pay sectors, which means more people work in low-pay or insecure occupations. The key sectors that the action group targets to encourage employers to pay the Real Living Wage are: care, retail, hospitality, and property and construction.
A Norwich Living Wage Action Group networking event, sponsored by Phoenix Events (East) Ltd, Aviva and the Forum Trust, takes place on Monday, November 6 from 6-7:30pm at The Atrium in the Forum, Norwich. Register at https://tinyurl.com/mryza6fs
Find out more and become an accredited Living Wage Employer at https://www.livingwage.org.uk/good-for-business
Case Study – Employees
Phoenix East Ltd, based on Turner Road, Norwich, is a Living Wage employer. Here’s what some of their staff had to say:
Lucy Birtwell: “I have worked for Phoenix Events (East) LTD for two years. Working for a company that pays the accredited Living wage means I can balance my social life and my work life, and still have the money for everyday essentials.”
Larissa Hunns: “Being paid the accredited living wage means I, as a university student, can still focus on my studies while being able to afford the things I need for everyday life.”
Susan Goreham: “Working for a company that pays the real living wage means we are able to balance our work and home life better which helps us a great deal.”
Norwich City Council worker Francesca Clarke said:
“After working in retail for over fifteen years I was looking for a change – but starting over in a new career has always been something that I thought would be difficult financially. With a mortgage to pay and a family to support, going back into education was never an option, and whenever I’d looked into apprenticeships they always seemed to offer low wages.
“I’ve really appreciated the security of being paid a real Living Wage while I do my apprenticeship at the city council, and I think it would make such a big difference if more opportunities like this were available to people.”
Case Study – Employer
Norwich Theatre Royal
Norwich Theatre has become a Real Living Wage employer as part of its strategic commitment to make the organisation an outstanding place to work. This year it meant an average pay award of 10.3% across eligible employees and a 14.7% increase for variable hour employees who were earning the National Living Wage.
Stephen Crocker, Chief Executive and Creative Director of Norwich Theatre, said: “Our strategy is about improving people’s prosperity, and we do that creatively in all our wellbeing and take part events. It was important to us as an employer to also consider what makes a prosperous community, and we believe a key part is the financial sustainability for our staff.
“We are proud promote the Real Living Wage and work with others towards Norwich becoming a Real Living Wage city. We understand the challenges involved in making this move to becoming a Real Living Wage employer, and we offer our support to any businesses looking to sign up.”
Key Facts and Figures
In Norwich, more than one in four employees earns less than £9 per hour.
A total of 28 per cent of families in the city are categorised as deprived and 31 per cent of children as living in poverty.
Norwich employees are, on average, paid 13.5 per cent less than full time employees in the UK, which means many thousands are paid well below the current living wage.
What is the accreditation process?
The accreditation is incredibly simple. It is a signed licence between the Living Wage Foundation and the employer. In order to receive a licence and become accredited please fill in an enquiry form at livingwage.org.uk. Once you have ensured your organisation satisfies the requirements please complete and submit the online form.
How long does it take?
It will vary according to the size of your organisation and the types of contracts you have. Some employers can complete their application form straight away and we will aim to process their accreditation within ten working days. Others may have a project of work to do to identify which contracts are relevant and when they are due for renewal. Large organisations can often be accredited within 6 months.
Who does it apply to?
The Living Wage applies to all directly employed staff over the age of 18 regardless of the number of hours they work. For third party contractors the exact definition is those who work regularly, for 2 or more hours a week, for 8 or more consecutive weeks a year.
The Living Wage does not apply to contractors that supply your organisation with products e.g. stationery suppliers. We recommend that you communicate your Living Wage commitment to everyone you do business with and encourage them to consider implementing the Living Wage.
For more key questions answered visit https://www.livingwage.org.uk/faqs